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Bare Feet Pounded the blades of summer grass as she ran, laughter swirling around her. She was just steps away from the large black cottonwood tree they’d designated as safe, when the strap of her bright yellow sundress slipped off her slender shoulder.
“Don’t let her touch it!” one of the boys yelled, making her stumble, but strong fingers wrapped around her upper arm, keeping her from falling.
“Tag! You’re it, Breck!” Mason bellowed between heaving breaths, then bent, placing his hands on his knees, attempting to catch his breath.
“Hey,” she whined, “that’s not fair. I thought you were helping me.”
Straightening, a silly grin stretched across his cute face before he panted, “I was, but I couldn’t let my chance get away either.”
Hand on her hip, Breckin raised her pointed chin. “You stink, Mason Miller!”
He shrugged. “I’m still the winner.”
“I’m tired of this,” Eddie, one of Mason’s older brothers said, striding across the manicured lawn—cheeks rosy from the exertion. “Let’s play something else.”
Mason’s brow furrowed. “Like what?”
“Truth or dare?”
Kristyn Jennings jogged up, stopped next to Mason’s brother, and then twirled the ends of her long, dark ponytail around her finger. “I’m with Eddie.”
“I’m in,” Gage, Mason’s best friend added then smiled, showing off his braces.
“I don’t know,” Danica chirped. “That game isn’t very nice.”
Breckin pointed at her little sister. “You only hate it ’cause you always pick dare.”
“That’s not it.” Glancing around, she asked in a low tone, “What if the preacher sees us doing things we shouldn’t?”
“Dad’s locked away in his office, busy working on Sunday’s message. He won’t come out here,” Eddie assured her.
“Truth or dare! Truth or dare!” Kristyn clapped and bounced, mimicking her big sister doing a cheer.
Mason flipped his hand up. “Whatever.”
“Yay!” Bouncing, Kristyn tossed her fist in the air.
Eddie wiped his glistening forehead. “I’m going first. Then we follow the circle, so gather around.”
The six kids took their positions as Eddie’s hazel gaze fell on his younger brother. “Truth or Dare?”
Squaring his shoulders, Mason said, “Truth.”
“All right.” An evil grin turned the corners of Eddie’s mouth up. “Someone here is your secret crush. Who is it?”
Narrowing his eyes, Mason pushed his brother’s shoulder. “You’ve been snooping in my room!”
Eddie returned the favor. “You’ve been in mine!”
“Okay, you two.” Breckin sighed. “I’m going home if you’re going to fight.”
“Are we playing or not?” Kristyn huffed, crossing her arms.
Gage scowled, rubbing his nose with the back of his hand. “Yeah. Knock it off, you guys.”
The two brothers stopped their shoving match and glared at each other for a moment.
“Answer the question or forfeit, Mase,” Eddie said, “those are the rules.”
Kicking a dandelion with the toe of his Nike, Mason tucked his hands into the front pockets of his cutoffs, then glanced down. “Breckin.”
A collective “Oooh…” rang out, making a blush bloom on both Breckin’s and Mason’s youthful cheeks.
“Truth or Dare, Breck?” Kristyn asked, way too eager.
She might regret it, but she went with, “Dare.”
Lips twitching, Kristyn blurted out, “I dare you to kiss Mase for five seconds,” holding up all five fingers spread wide to make herself clear as if she wasn’t already.
Biting her bottom lip, Breckin looked at Mason, who turned his head to look at her, their gazes locking. “I’ll do it,” she whispered.
Her heart tha-thumped a rapid rhythm in her chest, but she thawed from her frozen state when Mason cupped his palm around hers and led her away from the group.
“Where are you going?” his brother called.
“Behind the church!” Mason hollered as the two of them rounded the corner of the imposing building. He stopped when they were out of sight. “You don’t have to.” He let loose of her, hand dropping to his side. “We can just say you did.”
Shaking her head, chestnut hair swishing along her back, Breckin glanced up at him. “I’m not a cheater.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
She put a hand on her hip. “Yes, it does.”
Brow crinkled, Mason asked, “You sure?”
“Okay.” Mason took a step closer, his aqua blue eyes sparkling from beneath those thick, black lashes. “How do you want to do this?”
“Just go for it, I guess.” She swiped a clammy palm along the side of her dress.
“Me or you?”
It was her dare she figured as she gripped his forearm, popped up on her toes, closed her eyes, and smashed her lips against his.
One, two, three…
When Mason wrapped his arms around her, the warmth of his breath puffing against her skin, she lost her count. Breckin was so taken by surprise, she didn’t notice he’d let her go until she heard, “You okay?”
The question had her eyelids fluttering. “I-I think so.”
“Look at me, then.”
Opening one green eye then the other, she glanced up at him and touched her lips—the breeze tickling her gangly legs.
Somehow, Mason appeared to be much older than the ten-year-old boy he was just minutes before, reaching out and tucking a section of her hair behind her ear. “Do you want to do it again?”
Unable to speak, Breckin did the only thing she seemed capable of. She nodded.